Image credit: iStock/Gajus Image credit: iStock/Gajus

Park workers in Austin, Texas, US have been left confused after finding bags of condoms hanging from trees. The city's Parks and Recreation Department were left shocked when they found plastic bags containing condoms and lubricant carefully hung from branches of trees in a particular park.

While many people thought it was a prank, it turns out that the protection was placed there by employees of the Austin Health and Human Services (HHS) department in order to promote using protection. The park is a bit of a notorious local sex spot and so the department thought it would be the ideal place for providing free contraception - even if it is in an unconventional way.

Unfortunately, the HHS directors knew nothing about the initiative and nor did the Parks and Recreations department, which took the condoms down as it thought they were litter and wanted to protect the local environment.

Parks director Sara Hensley said: “Plastic bags, of course, can fall into the creek and hurt critters. Then we found out it was an effort to educate the public about safe sex, which we absolutely support, but I’m not sure hanging something from a tree is the best way to get the message across.”

HHS director Shannon Jones didn't know about the new safe sex initiative until a news report about it on TV. He said that every effort is being made to remind staff of the vetting system that is in place for all campaigns to ensure that any safe sex initiatives adhere to set rules.

An investigation into the condom programme is to happen, however, Mr Jones commends the innovative efforts the team are using to help prevent the spread of HIV and other STIs.

The park where the condoms were put up is Walnut Creek Park, which has been identified as an area where HIV transmissions are a problem, especially among gay men. Within the first three months of 2016, 53 people were diagnosed with HIV in Austin, according to state data.

Mr Jones said: "The rates of HIV in our community are high. We need to use traditional and nontraditional efforts to reduce the spread of disease."